If you want the good life, you will pay less for health insurance.
The Good Life Program is the name of the newest wellness plan BlueCross BlueShield is offering to health insurance groups. The goal of the program is to make individuals more accountable for how much they pay for their health insurance premium.
BlueCross' newest wellness program was one of the main factors for city officials in reaching an agreement with fire and police union leaders last month. The agreement was that active and retired members of the union will need to participate in the Good Life Program in order to pay less for insurance. Starting in 2015, union members will pay 17 percent for their health insurance premium if they participate in the wellness program. If they don't, they will pay 22 percent.
A group of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York employees is pictured participating in a physical health screening. The insurance provider now offers a wellness program that lowers premium costs for those who participate.
Karl Siebert, BlueCross BlueShield wellness operations director, said the program was started four years ago in-house at the insurance provider. Siebert said the point is to give members an opportunity to determine how much they pay for their own health care.
"We tried it on ourselves for two years to see if it was effective," he said. "The first year our participation was very high, it was over 90 percent. The second year we maintained that level. It has always been high."
Siebert said once the program worked internally, BlueCross officials were ready to roll the health insurance product out to customers. He said for two years they have been offering the plan to groups outside of the company. He said in the first year, there was only a couple of groups who participated. However, he said the number of participants continues to grow each year.
"This year we have a large number of groups. It is growing rather quickly, and creating a buzz in the market. We are the only insurer that has it."
Siebert said the Good Life Program has two stages. The first stage is the employee, within the first three months of the year, needs to get blood test done. He said the employee could have an on-site blood screening or they can get blood work done by their physician.
Also, the employee has to take an online health risk assessment. The participant will be asked questions like what they eat, do they smoke and do they exercise.
The second stage is once the blood work and the health risk assessment has been analyzed, it is determined if the participant needs a health coach. If they don't need one, then they will be part of the program and won't have to be re-evaluated for another year. If the employee does need a health coach, they will be provided with information to have a better life style.
"If they are healthy and if they are compliant with their health coach, they will be a member of the (Good Life Program)," he said.
Even if a health insurance member doesn't participate in the program one year, he can start the program the following year during open enrollment for the health insurance group. Siebert said participation rates for the Good Life Program range from 60 to 98 percent. He said when BlueCross provided wellness programs with no incentive to pay less for premiums participating rates were around 30 percent.
"By an incentive-driven plan, participation rates are up two to three times what they were," he said. "The old ones were more volunteer. They were warm and fuzzy programs. This one is cause and effect, and you get rewarded. In order to pay less, you have to take ownership of your health and well-being. So we are empowering members to take ownership of how much they pay for health insurance that will affect the employers overall cost."